CLEVELAND — Their offense sputtering for nearly a week, the Yankees needed a break.
A fly ball, the sun and Abraham Almonte combined to give them one.
Almonte misplayed Jacoby Ellsbury’s shot to right field in the sixth inning into a three-run triple, Luis Severino overpowered Cleveland’s lineup into the seventh inning and Aaron Judge hammered a three-run homer as New York rolled to a 8-1 win over the Indians on Sunday.
With the score tied 1-1 in the sixth, Ellsbury sent a deep drive off Carlos Carrasco (10-5) that Almonte seemed to track while fighting a tough sky. But as he neared the wall, Almonte, who returned from the minors on Saturday, didn’t extend his glove and braced for impact well shy of the wall as the ball bounced off its base, allowing three runs to score.
“You hope it goes over the wall,” said Ellsbury. “But I’ll take a triple any day, especially with three runners on. I’m happy it found some turf.”
Almonte didn’t make any excuses and accepted blame for not making the play.
“It’s a ball that should have been caught,” said Almonte, who sat at his locker and reviewed the play on a tablet with Indians bench coach Brad Mills following the game. “It was not an easy fly ball, but it should have been caught.”
The Yankees wound up scoring five runs in the sixth — matching their total in the past four games — and bounced back from two sloppy losses to split the series with the defending AL champions.
Severino (9-4) gave up Michael Brantley’s homer in the first and then toyed with the Indians, striking out nine and allowing just three runners to reach. He didn’t give up his second hit until there were two outs in the seventh and was pulled by manager Joe Girardi before getting a roaring ovation from several thousand New York fans.
The All-Star right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.71 ERA in his last four starts.
“He has continued to improve all year long,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “I’m seeing him do things now that he didn’t do early on.”
Other than allowing Brantley’s homer, Severino was rarely in any trouble. He put himself in a bind in the fourth with a leadoff walk and wild pitch, but locked down and retired Cleveland’s 3-4-5 hitters to keep it 1-0.
Brantley touched Severino for a homer in the first, but the Indians didn’t make much hard contact off the 23-year-old.
“That’s as impressive of stuff as you’re going to see,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “The fastball, everybody sees that, but he’s gaining confidence in an off-speed. That’s a tough guy to face.”
Judge connected in the seventh for his 35th homer — only No. 5 since the All-Star break — to give New York an 8-1 lead. Judge’s screaming liner to center had an exit velocity of 113 mph, and the Yankees can only hope it hurries him out of an extended slump.
Judge struck out in his first two at-bats and was walked in the sixth before hitting his league-leading homer.
“I swung at some pitches out of the zone before that,” he said. “In that at-bat, I was able to stick to my approach and drive it to right-center. The past couple of weeks I’ve been getting off my approach. When you get out of your approach in the major leagues, people will expose you. “
Judge is hitting .182 (14 for 77) with 35 strikeouts since July 14.
Indians second baseman went 0 for 4 and struck out three times in his first game since July 8. He was activated from the disabled list Sunday after being sidelined with a strained right hamstring.
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who has had major defensive issues this season, sat for the second straight game.
Sanchez leads the majors with 12 passed balls and Girardi has stressed to the 24-year-old that he has to get better at blocking pitches or his playing time will be affected.
“The message came from us verbally,” said Girardi, who caught for 15 seasons in the majors. “‘Your defense needs to improve. You need to get better at it. You need to work at it.’ He’s worked at it, but we’ve expressed how important it is.”
Sanchez was surprised to not be in the lineup again, but understands he has to work harder.
“I’m not perfect,” he said. “The bottom line is I have to improve.”
The Yankees sent rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery to Triple-A after the game. The 24-year-old is 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 21 starts. The Yankees acquired starters Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia at the recent trade deadline, and will use them with Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia in the rotation.
Yankees: Following an off day in Toronto, Sabathia starts the opener of a three-game series with the Blue Jays.
Indians: Cleveland also gets a break before opening a two-game interleague series against Colorado with ace Corey Kluber on the mound. Kluber upstaged Gray’s New York debut and three-hit the Yankees on Thursday.